In case you’ve been under a rock for a few days, perhaps you’ve not heard the tale of the first real Swiftboat-like ad campaign financed by a Republican-funded 501 c4 group. If you ever have the misfortune of watching this piece of dreck (I’m ambivalent about embedding the YouTube link here–let me know what you think), it’ll feel like deja vu all over again for those who remember the 2004 campaign.
The ad dredges up Obama’s past connection with Bill Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground, who went underground after a bomb accident destroyed a New York City townhouse and killed his girlfriend and several other group members. Now Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois, Ayers once served on a foundation board with Obama. From what I’ve been able to adduce, this is pretty much the entire connection to Obama.
The ad ranges from outright falsehood–claiming that Ayers bombed the U.S. Capitol (he didn’t–but he did participate in planning to bomb a Chicago statue commemorating police casualties at the Haymarket Riot); to mere distortion–claiming Ayers continues to support terrorism and bombing (again he doesn’t–but he did make ambiguous statements about his past in a N.Y. Times interview. His own reply to the interview claimed his views were distorted by the reporter. Another claim in the ad is that Obama’s first election campaign was launched in Bill Ayers living room. Actually, Bill Ayers held a standard meet and greet for Obama in his home, something candidates do scores of times in the course of any campaign.
To give a real idea of just how sleazy this attack ad is, even FOX News refused to air it–FOX News! You know it’s bad if they wouldn’t touch it.
But Politico has just produced the goods on the ad campaign, funded by a little outfit called the American Issues Project. The group is bankrolled by a single individual who just happens to be a Bushite Texan (there’ll always be a Texas!) and major donor to the McCain campaign:
The donor…is Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, who made his first fortune in chain pharmacies and is now listed as the 73rd richest person in the world, with a net worth estimated by Forbes at $2.1 billion.
Simmons, a major Republican donor, gave maximum $2,300 contributions to Senator John McCain last year, as well as to former Governor Mitt Romney and to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
He’s listed as a bundler for the McCain campaign on McCain’s website, which says he’s raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for the Republican candidate.
…Simmons was reportedly a major donor to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004.
He’s also a backer of a controversial plan to store nuclear waste in West Texas, which his waste management company would administer.
Surprising that a guy who wants to dispose of radioactive nuclear waste couldn’t see the radioactive material he himself was producing for the American Issues Project. Also interesting to note that 501 c4’s are supposed to maintain a firewall between themselves and any campaign for whom they might be shilling. But in this case, Simmons’ claim of independence is demolished by his being both a donor AND bundler for John McCain. Huffington Post also reports that the group’s director is a former McCain staffer.
Huffington Post reports the likelihood that this ad is a clear violation of FEC regulations, though it would take so long to review any complaint that the election would be long over before any decision would be made.